Something beautiful…

It was a simple request.  “Tell me something beautiful you saw over the weekend.”  It was a post that a friend of mine put on Facebook.  It didn’t take me long at all to think about it.  My something beautiful came to mind immediately…and it was Facebook.  I know right??  Really…Facebook?  Well it wasn’t exactly Facebook, but what was posted there.

This weekend was the GCN (Gay Christian Network) conference.  If you’ve been around for some time, you know that I went last year.  You can read about it in these two posts “On Holy Ground” and “The Best Parts” if you missed them.  I go into detail there about what the conference is about, but you can also check it out on their website Q Christian Fellowship (they announced their name change this weekend).  I want to get to the something beautiful (smile).

So this year I was unable to go, but I had a lot of friends that were there.  They posted on Facebook throughout the weekend and because I had been before it wasn’t hard to imagine being there.  I wish there wasn’t so much hurt in the LGBTQ community, but I’m glad that this conference allows for some “something beautiful” moments:

On Thursday night, they have an icebreaker and this year one of the moms got to sit at a table with about 11 LGBTQ young people.  She explained to them that she has a gay son who she loves and supports.  She told them that she has tried to shield him from the condemnation from the church.  A young man sitting across from her covered his face and wept.  She assured him that he didn’t deserve that kind of hurt.  Something beautiful…

One of the moms met a young woman who came to the conference because she had heard about the “free mom hugs.”  Stop and think about that for a moment.  You go to a conference to receive a hug from an affirming mom because yours isn’t.  So sad, but she was able to experience…Something beautiful…

Hundreds of people gathered for a worship service…hands raised and faces turned towards Heaven…tears streaming down their faces as they worshipped.  For some, it’s the first time they’ve been ALLOWED to worship with other believers.  Here they are welcomed.  It reminds me of this C.S. Lewis quote:

“If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical Worship, the song of the Church triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note.”
C.S. Lewis – The Problem of Pain

Something beautiful…

Stories of children having to hide who they are from their parents.  Some who have recently come out and have been rejected by family and church.  When you spend your whole life in church, to then be rejected by it, where do you go?  You go to a conference that’s filled with love and acceptance and parents who give you hugs.  Something beautiful…

I’ve been a part of those hugs…at the conference last year…and also at the march in DC and the pride parade in Baltimore.  When someone collapses in your arms and sobs telling you that they’ve never felt so accepted, believe me when I say you are in the presence of God.  Something beautiful…

I’m so thankful for this conference.  When I went last year, it was life changing.  I hope to go next year.  In the meantime, I’m going to hug people who need them.  I’m going to love as God calls me.

Love is important to God…because it matters.

 

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I don’t know where I’m going…but I sure know where I’ve been…

These lyrics from Whitesnake’s song “Here I Go Again” have been stuck in my head for quite some time.  It’s true…I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.  The last several weeks have made me more aware of that fact.

Trauma is a sneaky thing.  We are very aware of it while it’s happening and for some time when it’s over, but I think it throws us through a loop when it resurfaces after being stored in our bodies and our subconscious minds after many years.  This was very evident to me over the summer and it’s taken me some time to process through it.

First my son experienced it.  One day at work he received a phone call from his friend letting him know that her mother suddenly passed away.  She wasn’t sick.  It was one of those instances of having something in your body that isn’t detected until it’s too late.  Even though my son had just turned 3 when my mom passed away, his body and subconscious mind remembered it and this event brought it all back to him in a big way.  There were similarities.  My mom wasn’t sick either.  She was sitting on the floor playing with my kids and had a brain aneurysm.  She was only 50.  He of course was really sad for his friend…but he also had to process through his feelings of loss all over again.  It also scared him because I had just turned 50 and he couldn’t help but wonder if it would happen to me too.

I also had an experience this summer.  It’s really strange what can trigger a memory of trauma.  When my son got out of the hospital after being suicidal, there were a couple of things I had to do.  The first was to change the ring tone on my phone.  Because we got a lot of phone calls regarding my son before we made the decision to hospitalize him, the calls after he got home were just about throwing me into a panic attack.  Changing my ring tone sort of retrained my brain that phone calls weren’t always going to be bad.  The other thing I had to do was stop listening to music that I listened to during the 5 years that he really struggled.  It wasn’t all music, but you know how you can find a song that really speaks to you or brings you comfort during a difficult time?  Those were the songs I couldn’t listen to anymore because they brought me right back to the stress and heartache that I experienced during that time.

So what does all of that have to do with the summer?  Well I told you trauma is sneaky.  You just never know what’s going to trigger it.  And for me it was a phone call this summer.  It was an innocent enough phone call.  It wasn’t even about my son.  But there was something about it that was familiar to me and it took me back to my son’s hospitalization…like right.back.there.  And my brain didn’t stop there.  It replayed every painful conversation, every tear, every sleepless night listening to make sure my son was safe in his room at night, every morning I waited for a text message reply from him while he was at college to make sure he hadn’t taken his life, my anger at God…it just went on and on.  It was pretty brutal and it took some time to get over it.

I know so many families that have similar stories.  This is why I am so passionate about helping other parents and those who don’t have parental support.  This stuff is really hard.  It’s also why I’m passionate about things like marching in the Baltimore Pride Parade and participating in National Coming Out Day.

Last week our community college had some events for the students in what ended up being  Coming Out Week not just day.  I’m really impressed with everything they do for the LGBTQ+ community there and I’ve been honored to be a part of many of them.  Tuesday they had two viewings of the National Geographic documentary Gender Revolution.  It was great to see the amount of people who came out for the documentary…both students and faculty.  It was really well received.  I was asked to come back the following day for the event “Come Out, Come Out Wherever You Are!”  It was on National Coming Out Day.  It was a fun day of crafts, documentary screenings, and resource information.

I saw some “talk” on the internet about not needing a National Coming Out Day.  The point being made was if gay people want to be treated like everyone else then why do they need a day like this.  The same kind of sentiment went around the internet during Pride month.  If the LGBTQ+ community had the same rights as everyone else and were treated like everyone else, then we wouldn’t need things like Pride month and National Coming Out Day.  When they can walk down the street hand in hand with the person they love, and not be harassed or even have cars accelerate towards them showing aggression…then we won’t need events like these.

What I wore to the college for National Coming Out Day.

National Coming Out Day shows solidarity in the community.  Coming out is stressful and knowing that you aren’t alone is empowering.  So I support this day and all the other days that show this community that they aren’t alone.  My Facebook will be filled with rainbows and memes showing that support.  And I will proudly wear my rainbow “gear” to show that I’m an ally and someone safe to come out to.  I dream of a day that these things won’t be necessary, but we have a long way to go.

 

I’ve mentioned before that I am no longer working for my church.  I left my position in June.  So…I really don’t know where I’m going…but I sure know where I’ve been.  One thing I  will continue to do is fight for this community with everything that I have until the day it is no longer needed.  No more sadness, no more fear, no more trauma.

I went to pick up some pumpkins today and the Doobie Brother’s song “Long Train Runnin'” came on the radio.  I couldn’t help but notice the line that goes like this:

Without love, where would you be right now
Without lo-o-o-ove

If you have been lucky enough to be loved for who you are, where would you be without that love.  I’m guessing your life might look a little different.

Get out there and love…because love matters…

Fear not…

One night last week while cooking dinner, I realized I hadn’t thought things through. When it was time to cook the broccoli, I noticed that the pot I needed to steam it in had my pork in it.  Whoops!  I quickly switched gears and tossed it onto a baking sheet to roast it.  Now my family loves roasted broccoli.  It is tasty, but I HATE how it makes my house smell.  Yuck! I am ultra sensitive to the smell and the next day was still bothered by it.  I decided to light some candles to try to get rid of the smell.  I realized that my lighter was out of fluid so I grabbed an old box of matches that I had in the junk drawer and was transported back in time.

When I was a child, my parents taught me about the dangers of fire and matches.  In fact, they may have taught me a little too well.  When I was old enough to light a match, I was terrified by it.  I just knew I would catch myself on fire.  I was 13 years old and I was going to my aunt’s house to babysit my cousin.  My aunt had a very old gas oven that you had to light each time you wanted to cook and I had to cook my cousin dinner. Really I just had to heat up a simple can of soup and there wasn’t a handy microwave to use.  My dad patiently sat with me in our kitchen trying to show me how to light a match so that I could do it when I got to my aunt’s house.

Well when it came time to heat up the soup, I just couldn’t do it.  I was paralyzed with fear.  I would try to strike the match on the side of the box, but my stroke was not firm enough.  My fear kept me from being able to do it and I had to call my mom to come light the stove for me.  Epic fail!  Fear is a tricky thing.  It can stop us in our tracks or send us running in the other direction and a whole lot of things in-between.

Recently the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood drafted a statement of faith referred to as The Nashville Statement (NS) relating to human sexuality and gender roles. It was signed by many pastors and has created quite a stir.  Rather than me explaining it here, you can click on the link to see what it’s about.

The statement is filled with language that is familiar to many in the church so it was no surprise to me.  It did, however, draw a line in the sand (Article 10) that I think might cause an exodus in the church that they didn’t take into consideration.  In my frustration, I posted the following as a post on my Facebook account:

“So according to the Nashville Statement I am not a Christian. A group of people, who don’t know me, decided that I am not worthy of their club. That’s ok. Because I don’t want to be a part of their club. In fact, I’m not a Christian. I will no longer associate myself with that name. I am a follower of Jesus and I love God and people as He has instructed me to do.”

I got some push back for making this statement.  I received some private messages over it. Some people were afraid that I was leaving my faith.   Some feared, as they have mentioned before, that I am following a watered down gospel.  And some feared that I was letting the authors of the statement “win.”

So, I thought I would put my thoughts down here…

My faith is intact.  It has not changed.  My identity in Christ has not changed.  The language I use to describe myself is what has changed.  I run into a lot of Christians who quite frankly are damaging to the LGBTQ+ community.  The NS which was signed by many prominent pastors is damaging.  I’m an ally to a community that is bleeding.  I’m not going to identify as someone who is causing that wound.  I want to be a safe place for them.  Sadly identifying as a Christian in my opinion is not safe for them (not everyone shares this opinion – this is just my opinion). There aren’t any winners here.  We are talking about lives. And although I don’t care what this NS says about me…I do care what it says about LGBTQ+ community.  I also care about what that community sees in me. To me the word Christian is…well just a word.  We should look at the actions of others to determine if they are following Jesus.  And that’s what I am…a follower of Jesus.

The group of people who got together and wrote the NS were expressing their beliefs. They have the right to do that.  Just as I have the right to believe what I believe.  They read the Bible and interpret it one way, and I read the Bible and interpret it another way.  I took the Bible, historical context, and the studies of many people much smarter than me to get where I am with my beliefs.  But more importantly, I listened to the Holy Spirit.  I still have questions.  I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m ok with that.  It seems that it’s ok to look at other historical documents to prove that Jesus existed, but it’s not ok to look at cultural and historical information to formulate what a Bible verse might be saying.  I don’t get that.

These are just my thoughts.  Many people in my situation are still ok with identifying as Christians and of course that is perfectly fine.  I think each of  our personal experiences shape our journey and everyone’s journey is their own.

I spent too many years in fear of doing the right thing…believing the right thing.  Too many years concerned about what others thought of me.  My fear paralyzed me to the point where I didn’t know what to believe, and at times I isolated myself because I worried I would say or do the wrong thing.  Thankfully I have gotten over that.    Like I said in my FB post…God calls me to love…there’s no fear in that.

Fear not…and love…because love matters.

 

Why I marched on June 11th…

This past Sunday I marched in the Equality March in Washington, DC.  This is how their website describes the event “the ‘Equality March for Unity & Pride’ is a grassroots movement which will mobilize the diverse LGBTQ+ communities to peacefully and clearly address concerns about the current political landscapes and how it is contributing to the persecution and discrimination of LGBTQ+ individuals.”

Mike and I went on a bus with 32 other people who were marching either for themselves or for a family member.  We knew only a few people, but that didn’t matter. Really we are a family.

I wish I knew how many people were there for the march.  It. Was. Packed.  We stood in the heat of the sun (man was it HOT) with thousands of other people as we waited for the march to start.  You know how cars are bumper to bumper in a traffic jam?  Well we were shoulder to shoulder.  It was difficult to move at times.  We had to wait for quite some time before the march started.  Someone would periodically blow a whistle and the crowd would roar with cheers.  We were ready.  In the crowd, I saw anger, hurt, resolve, determination.  Tears flowed as the crowd united for the task at hand.

There were lots of messages displayed on shirts that people were wearing and signs that people were carrying.  Many of these signs portrayed people’s frustration with the president.  Some signs depicted reasons why that person was marching…either an actual person like their child, or a policy that they felt needed to change.  People marched for themselves, they marched for family members or friends, they marched for those who couldn’t march for themselves like the 49 victims of the Pulse shootings.

I had a sign, but I took a different approach.  I knew that there would be many people there at the march that didn’t have support from family.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m part of two private Facebook groups of moms of LGBTQ children.  When we go to events like this, we like to take buttons and/or signs that say “Free Mom Hugs” so that we can show support to those who don’t have it.  This was my sign (which my artist daughter McKensie was very sweet to make for me).

Did I mention how hot it was on Sunday?  There were lots of sweaty hugs given and received (smile).  You can tell a lot from a hug.  There are the “what a great idea hug – I want a hug” hugs.  There are the friendly “thank you for your support” hugs.  Then there are the hugs that linger.  The person holds you tightly.  You can feel the emotion in it. Even though it may be brief, you can feel that the person NEEDED that hug.  It’s a chance to tell that person through touch that they matter, that they are important, that they are seen, and most importantly they are loved.  I gave hugs while walking to the march starting point.  I gave hugs while waiting to start.  I gave hugs afterwards at the festival…and even a hug at the train station where we were meeting our bus.

So why did I march?  I marched for my son.  I marched for my LGBTQ friends.  I marched because I think things need to change.  There is too much discrimination and violence towards this community.  I did it in a respectful way.  I was a presence so that this community knows that someone cares.  The following is an Instagram post by one of the young teens that were with us that day.  This…this is why I was there…

“I just want to say today was one of the most impactful , beautiful and moving days of my life. I was surrounded by strangers who felt like family.  I met some of the kindest, strongest people ever.  Thank you to everyone who made this possible because I am more than grateful to you and I am so so blessed to have been able to come out here and have this experience today. Much love to everyone that shared this experience with me, you made it possible.  Everyone who was there was part of my day.  I was so proud of who I was instead of being ashamed or afraid.  It was a liberating, once in a lifetime moment.  I seriously recommend attending a march or pride event in your area if you can and are LGBT or a straight ally.  One of the most powerful days of my life.”

These gatherings are so important because it is the one place that this community can truly, totally, be themselves.  The teen that wrote that has great family support and it was still so important and impactful to her.  There are some kids that can’t even be themselves in their own homes.  That’s why I marched.  That’s why I was present. That’s why I shared sweaty hugs that spoke of love without words.

Because love matters.

A picture is worth a thousand tears…

Well that isn’t exactly the saying is it?  It should be, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but this morning that wasn’t the case.

Pictures are amazing things.  They can transport us back in time in a blink of an eye. Sometimes they are memories that make us laugh.  Sometimes they are memories that make us swell with pride.  Sometimes they reduce us to a puddle of tears.  That’s what happened to me today when Facebook decided to remind me of a memory.

The picture that greeted me this morning was one that most people would think would be a happy memory.  After all…it’s a picture from a vacation 8 years ago.  But it was a reminder of one of the darkest times my family has experienced.  And in light of losing another young person to suicide this past week, it hit me hard.

Here’s the picture.  We are at the beach having our yearly end of vacation bonfire. img_1193Roasted hot dogs and of course smores were on the menu.  You can see how happy McKensie is with her marshmallows.  Now look at Kyle’s face.  Can you see it? When I look at this picture, the pain I see is palpable.  It crushes me.  And it brings me back to the fear and desperation I felt.  This was taken 3 months after we learned he was gay, and just four months before he landed in the hospital for suicidal thoughts.

I share this because of the suicide I mentioned that happened this week.  The young man who took his life was afraid to tell his parents that he was gay.  I don’t think people understand what a traumatic experience this is for the LGBTQ community.  I posted this on Facebook, but wanted to share it here as well in hopes that it might prevent another tragedy.

Why would a child be afraid of their parents?

  • They may hear them speak about the subject of being gay in an unfriendly, unloving manner.  Watch how you speak about it.  At least 50% of the parents I come in contact with had no idea their child was gay.  It totally threw them through a loop.  Why?  Because they have a stereotypical idea of what being gay is in their minds and their kid didn’t fit that mold.  Be careful what you are against because it could be the very thing you love most in the world.  Our.Kids.Are.Listening.
  • If they come from a Christian home, they may have heard that it’s a sin and that gay people are going to hell.   Let’s commit to love our kids towards God…not away from God.   Let your kids know you love them without putting the word “but” in the sentence.
  • They may know kids that have been kicked out of their homes for being gay, and they are afraid their parents will do the same thing.

There could be many more reasons.  Silence can be deadly as well. Talk to your kids. Having a difficult conversation with them is sure as heck better than burying them.

Of course parents can do all the right things and still may face the tragedy of their child taking their lives.  I’m not here to place blame or shame anyone.  I just ask us all to think about how we treat others.  This could have very easily happened to my family and I want to prevent it to happening to any others.

Fast forward almost 9 years and look at this picture.

15873064_10210942955391587_3781901443963125537_n

 

I hope you can see the difference that I see in Kyle. This is the face of love and acceptance.  Not just our love and acceptance, but the love and acceptance that he has for himself.  He couldn’t have gotten there without our love and support.  We went through such a dark time. This is what love, acceptance, and freedom look like. You can get there too.

 

If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or ending your life and feel like you have no one to turn to, contact The Trevor Project.

trevor

 

 

 

Again, this post isn’t to place blame on anyone.  It’s just a reminder that words matter. Attitudes matter.

But most of all…love matters.

 

The best parts…

“What was your favorite part about the conference?” It’s the question I’ve been asked the most by my friends who know how much I wanted to go.  If you read my last post, On Holy Ground, you know they are referring to the GCN Conference.  I’m on week two since being home and I’m still processing.

img_1121I would have to say I have a favorite parts.  The worship was powerful, the speakers were inspirational, the breakout sessions were informative, meeting some new moms and reconnecting with others was fun, the vigil was moving…it was all really good stuff.  A time that I will remember forever.  But what were my favorite parts?…the atmosphere and the people.

The atmosphere was relaxed, affirming, loving and well…fun.  So many smiles.  A place where you felt totally free.  You could be yourself.  It felt really good being there because I didn’t have to worry what anyone thought about my family, I didn’t have to worry about what anyone thought about my parenting, I didn’t have to hold anything back or feel censored in what I wanted to say…it was amazing.  I was so happy for the LGBTQ people who were there.  If I felt the way I did as an ally and parent there, I can’t even begin to imagine how they felt. Being your authentic self is healing.

My other favorite part…the people.  They were genuine.  There is something so intimate about being invited into someone’s story…someone’s pain.  I mean think about…we didn’t know each other, but in one of the breakout sessions we sat in a circle and they shared their deepest img_1120feelings and experiences.  I just wanted to scoop every one of them up and bring them home with me because in the midst of the smiles there was also pain.

And the hugs.  I want you to think about this for a moment. How many strangers would you go up to and hug?  It’s perfectly normal to hug our family members, and we tend to be ok with hugging our friends…but strangers?  That might seem a little strange.  But for some of the people at the conference, this is a healing thing for them.  Human contact that they are denied on a daily basis.  Several of the people who shared at the mic night on Saturday mentioned how much they liked the “mom hugs,” …one even saying that a hug from a mom is better than Prozac.

So…atmosphere and people.  Since I’ve been home these two short weeks, I’ve learned of a mom in Brazil who stabbed her 17 year old son to death because he was gay, a young man who was attacked outside a Target and hospitalized because he is gay, and a young transgender girl who took her life because of bullying.  Being in an atmosphere that is accepting and being with people who are affirming is not only life changing as many attested to…but I would venture to say…is life saving as well.

I leave you with this post from the lesbian daughter of one of my dear friends in reference to the inauguration.  Many are told to get over it, but this is what the LGBTQ community lives with on a daily basis and why this conference is so important:

“I love my job, I really do. I figure as long as my back allows me too I will keep my CNA license and use my gifts as a caregiver. Yet tonight as I made my way from room to room, every TV tuned to the event I did not want to see, I held my breath and thought this could be it. In a state with no statewide LGBTQ anti-discrimination law, at a Christian non-profit organization, working an already high-turnover position, serving a population with a drastically different worldview, though I love those I care for dearly and feel loved dearly, I worry. I worry I will slip up when I give my standard why I don’t have a boyfriend answer, or why I cut my hair like this. I worry a coworker will intentionally or unintentionally “out” me at work. I worry the lady ranting about how the “gays” are ruining America will see that twinge of pain in my eyes as I gently lay her down in bed. I worry someone will ask me about it and I will have to lie again, because it has happened and I’m worried about that day coming when I could be told you are not allowed to use your gifts.”

I love this girl…and I love her mama and the many, many more who I have crossed paths with and even those I haven’t.  I invite you to do the same.

Because love matters….

Love you to life…

01e9a0a2a24b4d1145d1518bce5df01bba8048fa80Last summer this was a vibrant, beautiful plant.  I usually take my plants off of my deck for the winter, but last year I never got around to it.  This pot sat outside all winter through all kinds of snow, sleet, and rain.  Now normally at the beginning of spring, I will bring all of my pots out of the garage and get some nice spring flowers to plant to make my deck look nice.  Well, if you are friends with me in real life, you know that my deck was in dire need of repair.  In fact, the whole thing needed to be replaced (except for the structure).  Since I wasn’t sure when that was going to take place, I never got around to planting flowers.  So, this pot sat on my deck with dead twigs in it.  I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but there are some twigs in there that have zero life sprouting from them.  And that’s how it looked all summer.  I did plant flowers for my front porch so every day I would go around and water my flowers…and the dead twigs on my deck.  I wasn’t really sure why I was watering a pot of dead flowers. Something in me just knew that flowers are supposed to have water…and although these were just twigs I felt compelled to water them.  And they stayed dead…all summer…until the first week in October when these beautiful little red sprigs blossomed.  I couldn’t believe it!  All that tender care all summer and it waited until the fall to spring to life!

I can’t help but be reminded of the people I have met along my journey when I think about this plant.  So many of their stories start with thoughts of death, despair, hopelessness, and they are barely clinging to life.  It’s when someone comes along and offers them unconditional love without fail that finally brings them back to life. They regain their spark, their zest for life, their love for themselves.  I have seen it happen in my own son, and in many people who I have met along the way.

I have been in a deep struggle lately.  It’s why I haven’t written much.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to be a part of the church…Big C church.  It is getting harder and harder for me to separate myself from what I’m seeing happening in the lives of so many.  There are too many lifeless twigs that are dying from the lack of love and my heart just can’t take it.  It is a daily struggle and I have to keep reminding myself that these people…”church people” do not represent the God that I know and love.  People have accused me of being divisive.  They say that I talk too much about the bad parts of the church.  I’m sorry, but I can’t ignore what is happening.  There is too much at stake.  Too many people that need love to thrive.

But rather than me share with you what’s happening, I invite you to watch this video to hear from the people who are actually living it.  It is an hour and a half, but it is worth every minute.  I sobbed through most of it because I have met people in these situations.  I have entered their stories.  I have shared their grief.  And some are no longer part of this world because no one loved them back to life.

If you call yourself a Christian, I urge you to watch this video.  Especially if you are a Christian that thinks you can’t be gay and a Christian.  I’m not sure what path God is going to take me on next…but I know that the status quo just isn’t going to work for me anymore.  If you watch the video and have questions, I’d love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you if you are local…or we can chat via email.  Be the love that so many desperately need…because love matters.